Los Pacos, 70 years across the road from Marbella luxury

Present. Paco chats to customers at a table in the bar.
Present. Paco chats to customers at a table in the bar. / A.M.S.
  • A traditional family business started in 1951 and became a local institution as the Golden Mile grew up around it

Throughout the countryside of Andalucía you can find 'ventas' or inns, originally established as a resting place to stop while travelling in horse carriages between towns.

Nowadays many are located along the major highways but some of them became urban, as towns grew up around them.

Los Pacos is the venta in the town of Marbella that is able to boast authentic cuisine and a very prominent clientele.

Los Pacos can be found on today's luxury area known as the Golden Mile - opposite the iconic Marbella Club Hotel.

However, when the venta was opened in 1951, its neighbour across the road was the picturesque Santa Margarita country estate with its fig and pine trees. This was later was purchased by the legendary Prince Alfonso de Hohenlohe.

And so the founder of Marbella Club Hotel became one of the first distinguished celebrities to patronise Los Pacos. The prince went there for his morning coffee, welcomed by the couple Curro Sánchez and Carmen Villalba, the first owners of this Marbella venta. They were happy to serve both aristocrats and labourers, who became permanent clients when several residential estates were under construction in the area.

In the 50s, Los Pacos was mostly a spot where you could buy a little of everything - rice, noodles, bread or tobacco, and additionally try some home-made dishes with wines. A glass out of a 16-litre bottle of Montilla-Moriles or Sánchez's own wine was a must, and many consumed it to whet their appetite.

Los Pacos became especially known for its gastronomy when the owners' son, Juan Sánchez, and his wife, María Fernández, took over the family business.

The most sought-after dish was 'patatas con huevos caseros' (eggs and chips), prepared by María. Some customers also used the place as a meeting point for playing dominoes.

Today's owners, Paco Sánchez (the grandchild of Curro and Carmen) and his wife Leticia Lara, breathed new life into the grandparents' business in September 1982. By keeping traditional Andalusian cuisine, the couple turned the place into a true Marbella institution.

Paco Sánchez told SUR in English that his place has always been popular, not only with local people but also with foreigners, both tourists and residents.

"Some celebrities have also passed through my restaurant. For example, the actor Mel Ferrer (when he, together with his wife Audrey Hepburn, owned a Costa del Sol home) used to come here for coffee while the princess Gunilla von Bismarck used to order a portion of her fried potatoes with eggs," he said.

"She was often accompanied by her husband Luis Ortiz, who especially liked our fig desserts. The great Jaime de Mora was a great connoisseur of our home-made stews. Baroness Carmen Thyssen drops in. I was always pleased to see my good friend Count Rudi in the 'venta' and his charming wife, Princess María Luisa of Prussia."

Los Pacos celebrated its 70th anniversary this week at an event attended by representatives of the local authorities and other important personalities on the Costa del Sol and Andalucía.